April has been a busy month in my world.
The Dream of Shiloh is out, and people are asking for volume 3 of the Shiloh Saga. I have been traveling to share stories about my books and having a wonderful time visiting with friends and family in the process. Let me share a bit of what I’ve been doing…
April 1 was a glorious Easter Day…the weather was not glorious, but the spirit at church was beautiful and the joy of celebrating our risen Savior is always worth the excitement of the best holiday of the year, regardless of the climate. I love Easter. It’s my favorite time of year, in case I haven’t made that clear. This is our Easter picture…Kennedy, Tara and me.
On April 3, two of my high school classmates and I traveled across Arkansas to Winslow Arkansas to do a book chat with the book club of another high school classmate…Mind you, we celebrated out fiftieth high school class reunion last July so we’ve been friends for a long time. Jamae Craft Fulmer invited us to her beautiful mountain home in the Boston Mountains and asked a dozen or so of her Mt. Harmony book club friends in to talk about In Search of Shiloh, which they had read together. Such fun we all had. They asked some of the best questions, many of which I hadn’t really thought about and had to think really quickly on my feet to come up with a good answer. They welcomed us so warmly. They even bought copies of The Dream of Shiloh and want me to come back later to talk about that one! Brenda Davis Thakkar and Jeanette Murray Clayton drove with me to Washington County, and another classmate, Chyrlene Hamby Noblin, who lives in Springdale drove over to join us. We finished the evening with a “bunking party” and went the next day to Crystal Bridges to see the fabulous art display. Don’t let anyone tell you Arkansas doesn’t have a first class Art Museum in the state!!! Fantastic exhibit.
On April 8, I had another birthday, but we won’t linger on that subject…
On the 9th, I took The Dream of Shiloh over to the Greene County Library in Paragould to add to their Local Author’s section. They had already purchased In Search of Shiloh. I wanted to see it on the same shelf as John Grishams’ books, but it was checked out. That was a wonderful surprise. They treated me so special…so graciously and invited me to come back in May and do a book talk and signing for them in their library. Librarians in our local libraries are such fine folks. I hope you support our public libraries when they ask for those tiny mileage increases. This is a selfie my granddaughter Kennedy took of herself on the beach at Muscle Shoals, reading her Nanna’s latest novel.
Two days later, I found that the Crowley’s Ridge Regional Library also had In Search of Shiloh in their collection. I went up there to see it…but found out it was checked out too! Since that is my home county, I need to go up there and donate them a copy of the second book, too.
At home, I’ve been editing Volume 3…Beyond Shiloh. Today I finished chapter 19. I think I have four chapters to go to finish the first read through. I’ll be ready to share it with my beta readers soon. The Lord has been good to me this year….The books are being well accepted and I love writing them. I think I may have found my calling.
I hope you will take a few minutes to read this interview I did with John “Jack” Cunningham. Jack is a member of my historical fiction critique group, and he has been very helpful in reading my story and making suggestions for historical accuracy. He was also the first person who asked me to do an author’s interview. I hope you enjoy this.
There are five major rivers in Arkansas that have been used for commerce and navigation by steamboats. Name three of them.
Three families made up the “Family” of early Arkansas politics. Name two of them.
Arkansas is the only state in the United States where diamonds have been found. Where can you ‘mine’ diamonds today?
The world’s largest rice processing mill is in Arkansas. Do you know where it is located?
Arkansas is notorious for our nationally televised school integration of Central High School conflict in Little Rock. This was not the first school integration in Arkansas. Do you know where the first integration took place, much more civilized and peaceful?
Was Arkansas a true son of the South and eager to enter the confederacy at the time of secession in 1861?
What was the name of the first newspaper in Arkansas?
What historical site is preserved in Dyess, Arkansas?
Arkansas has the privilege of having the first woman in United States Senate. Do you know who she was?
What is our state bird? (No, it is not the mosquito!)
Eli Lindsey, a nineteen year old, was the first circuit rider in Arkansas holding regular services in an official circuit. He was authorized under the Tennessee Conference to the new Spring River Circuit in 1815, twenty-one years before Arkansas was to be named a state. This was indeed quite a feat for such a young man. Lindsey preached regularly between Batesville and villages in the surrounding areas through 1816.
There is still on going debate as to where the original church was located, but Lindsey is known to have preached many places in those early days. Old stories tell of his preaching in his log cabin with its dog-trot and even his smokehouse. Some tell of the “fine church with the stone chimney” in a large log cabin near what is today Lake Charles in Lawrence County. Before his death, Lindsey and his family made their way to Grant County where he is buried in an unmarked grave in a cemetery with many members of his family.
Eli was quite a character. There is an old story that told about one service he was preaching when a bear stopped it cold. The story says Eli ended the service with a prayer thanking the Lord for “men who can shoot and women who can pray.”(Britton, Two Hundred Years of Methodism in Arkansas: 1800-200. p21.)
Why do I take the time to tell you about this little known disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ? Lest we forget the role our early circuit riders played in opening the wilderness for civilization and the growth of our faith, such great men must be remembered. Lindsey alone was said to have ridden a circuit that covered from the White River to the Little Red River to the Strawberry to the Spring River…what at that time was Lawrence County. If you look at a territorial map of Arkansas, Lawrence County was roughly the upper northeast quarter of the state. One learned man, riding a horse, preaching the gospel, caring for the people he met, and helping the frontiersmen begin to tame the wilderness is the picture we have of this young man and the others like him of the few denominations, the early Baptists and Disciples of Christ, that were riding circuits at that time. They established home churches, much like Paul and the apostles did in the New Testament. One such church grew to be the church Lonnie Thomison and his family attended in the Shiloh story.
The Eli Lindsey Memorial Church in Jessup, a tiny community in Lawrence County, Arkansas, is still a viable congregation today. It is the oldest continuous Methodist congregation in Arkansas. Attributed to Eli Lindsey as beginning in 1816, with the original building site being a mystery, Eli’s home site is approximately a mile behind the present church building. The first Shady Grove church building was constructed in 1848 or 1849 on that same site, and it would have been the building where Laurel and Mac would have celebrated their first Easter together. Lon made his profession of faith in that log church on that Easter morning. Shady Grove was rebuilt in 1905 as a beautiful rock church that still stands today. In 1948, they church was renamed to honor Eli Lindsey for the work the circuit rider did in bringing the gospel to the Arkansas wilderness. The church is a National Methodist Historic Landmark.
John Stoll and his wife Elaine serve the Eli Lindsey congregation today, and they have bimonthly services in the historic church.
The current Lawrence County Judge John Thomison and his wife Rita are dear friends of mine and they came to my recent book signing at First United Methodist Church Jonesboro. They live near the site where Eli Lindsey lived in the 1800’s, and today there is a simple marker that indicates his homesite existed at one time in Lawrence County. They have promised me a field trip to see the marker as soon as we have enough frost and cold weather to kill the chiggers and ticks. I am looking forward to seeing this historic place in person.